The surprise announcement of the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon, Head of the Scottish Government, on February 15 last, allowed Minister Kate Forbes to place herself more in the spotlight. It is finally his colleague Humza Yousaf, who was chosen, Monday, March 27, to lead the Scottish National Party (SNP) at the end of a campaign where Forbes was particularly attacked concerning his Christian faith. Yousaf is to be elected prime minister on Tuesday.
Sturgeon had announced his future departure from power following the British government's veto of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, a Scottish law that allows people to define their gender identity without medical advice from the age of 16. This law would have for example allowed a male rapist to declare himself a woman. London had blocked the text a week before the high-profile sentencing of Isla Bryson, a self-described rapist who should have been locked up with women. Surgeon had finally relented and said that Bryson would be incarcerated with the men, but the scandal and the British government's veto had weakened his position.
Among the three candidates for his succession at the head of the (SNP) and therefore of the government, two figures have been particularly publicized, those of Forbes and Yousaf, both members of the Sturgeon Government. One is Cabinet Secretary for Finance, the other is Secretary for Health and Human Services; one affirms her Christian faith and opposes societal claims of identity and sexual orientation; the other says he is in favor of it and is in line with the policy of the resigning Prime Minister.
A contested candidate because of her religious beliefs
Since the candidacy of the young woman, daughter of missionaries and member of the Free Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian Church with an evangelical tendency, her moral and spiritual convictions have been highlighted by the media. While she was considered to be Sturgeon's successor the day she stepped down, Forbes suddenly saw her media presentation deteriorate.
Five days after the announcement of the Prime Minister's resignation, The Scotsman, a Scottish media, asked her if she would have spoken out for gay marriage in 2014 (passed by 105 votes against 18), to which she replied that she would not have supported him, because it was a "matter of conscience". And to add that all the major religions consider that marriage is a bond between a man and a woman, but that she respected the law and did not intend to impose her convictions, citing the example of Angela Merkel in Germany on this topic.
Asked by the journalist about a supposed inconsistency between her acceptance of the Gay Marriage Act when she had not supported the Transgender Identity Act in the face of the British government's veto, the SNP leadership candidate replied preferring a collaborative approach with London “to make the necessary changes to allow [the law] to pass. Other media have highlighted his moral beliefs, including Sky News who asked her what she thought about having children out of wedlock. Forbes replied that it was not his choice regarding his own family life, but that others were free to live otherwise.
While Forbes' faith has been widely criticized and is seen as the reason for his defeat, Shona Haslam, chief executive of Logos Scotland, a think tank promoting Christian values, thinks that is not the case. According to Haslam, who heads the Scottish Borders Council - one of Scotland's 32 local governments - the media may have misrepresented the candidate's views and misinformed people about the influence of her faith on her campaign.